The Oxford Book of Ballads - online book

A Selection Of The Best English Lyric Ballads Chosen & Edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch

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PREFACE
that v.'hen a ballad is set in a collection alongside the best of Herrick, Gray, Landor, Browning—to name four poets opposite as the poles and to say nothing of such master-work as Spenser's Epithalam'wn or Milton's Lycidas—it is the ballad that not only suffers by the apposition but suffers to a surprising degree; so that I have sometimes been forced to reconsider my affection, and ask 'Are these ballads really beautiful as they have always appeared to me ?' In truth (as I take it) the contrast is unfair to them, much as any contrast between children and grown folk would be unfair. They appealed to something young in the national mind, and the young still ramp through Percy's Reliques— as I hope they will through this book—' trailing clouds of glory,' following the note in Elmond's wood—
May Margaret sits in her bower door
Sewing her silken seam ; She heard a note in Elmond's wood,
And wish'd she there had been.
She loot the seam fa' frae her side,
The needle to her tae, And she is on to Elmond's wood
As fast as she could gae.
A. Q. C.
XVI
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